Short and Fragmented Sleep Linked to Narrowing and Hardening of Arteries

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According to new research, sleeping less than six hours or waking up several times in the night is associated with an increased risk of ‘asymptomatic’ atherosclerosis, which silently hardens and narrows the arteries.

According to Dr. Fernando Dominguez, lead author of the Progression of Early Subclinical Atherosclerosis(PESA) study: “Bad sleeping habits are very common in Western societies and previous studies have suggested that both short and long sleep are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, there is a lack of large studies that have objectively measured both sleep and subclinical atherosclerosis.”

The PESA study monitored 3,974 healthy middle-aged adults for seven days to record sleep quality and quantity. They sleepers were divided into groups according to the proportion of fragmented sleep and average hours slept a night: Very Short (less than six hours per night), Short (six to seven hours), Reference (seven to eight hours), and Long (more than eight hours). Atherosclerosis was assessed in leg and neck arteries using three-dimensional ultrasound.

After adjusting for conventional cardiovascular risk factors and confounding factors, the study revealed that very short sleepers had significantly more atherosclerosis than those who got seven to eight hours per night.

Those with the most fragmented nightly sleep were more likely to have multiple sections of arteries with atherosclerosis compared to those with healthier sleep patterns.

Additionally, people with short or disrupted sleep were also more likely to have metabolic syndrome, a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.

Dr. Dominguez observed, “Failure to get enough sleep and restlessness during the night should be considered risk factors for blocking or narrowing of the arteries. Studies are needed to find out if sleeping well and long enough can prevent or reverse this effect on the arteries. In the meantime it seems sensible to take steps to get a good night’s sleep – such as having a physically active lifestyle and avoiding coffee and fatty foods before bedtime.”

Source: European Society of Cardiology. (2018, August 26). Short and fragmented sleep linked to hardened arteries.